July 11, 2005 – Monday – Day 16

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 232 – Total Miles: 4075 – Daily Average: 254.7
9:30AM-7PM – 9.5 hours
Cody,WY to Livingston,MT (just east of Bozeman)
(-stayed at the Livingston Inn-) (WY,MT– 18/48)

It was a good night’s sleep at that little Six Gun motel. Like most places they had continental breakfast fare offered to the guests. This place had Smart Balance though, and I was so happy to have the butter substitute. It’s a very healthy way to get the butter taste, but with a healthy alternative. The woman owner said that’s all they use because of her husband’s heart problems.

Our run this morning took us to the nearby Walmart, but it hadn’t opened yet – it was only 7:30am. We stopped on the mc though a bit later on our way out of town and I got a couple more 1gig little drives to back up our pictures and words, some powder, and a Star Trek movie video we might watch some night or on a day off – if we’re stuck in a tent or room with nothing else to do.

We had our earliest departure of the trip – 9:30am!

After leaving Cody, we rode twenty miles through the Shoshone River Valley and the peaks on either side were without parallel in beauty and stark rock grandeur. It’s so different from what we’re used to! Seeing miles upon miles upon miles without a McDonalds or a Starbucks or a Subway or a gas station or even a building! Without seeing ANYthing built by people except the roadway – just nature for as far as vision will go. And in the case lately, nature that widens the eyes, and literally makes one go, “Ohhhhhh……”

At 10:25am we stopped to gaze drop-jawed at some of the peaks above and the valleys below. We enjoyed the rest of the soy cheese and lettuce in a sandwich. The little info sign there noted how artifacts had been found in the caves that now were 1000’s of feet in the air – demonstrating that at one time those areas were at water level.

The entry into Yellowstone is Sylvan Pass over Grizzly Peak (which reached 9948 feet!) and then around Yellowstone Lake. Well, as it turned out, the first three miles or more of that high cliff-hugging road was under construction because of a gigantic mud and rock slide last year. (Which incidentally, “took out” 18 vehicles according to a road worker there. Karen wished he hadn’t mentioned that part!)

One side of the narrow “road” was closed and one lane of traffic either way would be allowed to slowly snake past. We were at the end of one long line. It was all gravel in some parts, rough riding dirt in others. Much of it was over deep canyons – looking right over the edge for those who dared! For one with somewhat meager motorcycle riding skills it was a white-knuckle challenge to be sure. The road was uneven with hardly any guard rails and no lines at all. On the left was 1000’s of feet down toward forested areas and on the right was 1000’s of feet up toward big boulders and mountain craggy peaks. I was very glad when we hit the solid pavement again.

It was cold riding in the mountains this day. Surely in the low 40s, the air was fresh with pine scent, but biting on the skin. Karen put on a jacket underneath her motorcycling one and we both zipped up well and put on gloves.

We crossed over our first Continental Divide at Craig Pass (8262 feet!) to get to Old Faithful. Before Old Faithful was Keppler Rapids. When I was bicycling in Yellowstone in ’87, I came up to the wooden bridge that overlooks the fast moving river and there was a huge raven sitting on the end of the pier. I recited Poe’s poem to that big black bird and the park attendant who was there.

At the Fishing Bridge store area we gassed up for $2.45/gallon. Gas was much more expensive in the park area. We went through the little store where Karen purchased a sweatshirt, a nice pullover and a Wyoming charm.

As we were getting on the bike we met a couple motorcyclists from Michigan. The woman was a tall, nice looking blond beautician lady and the guy a shorter, unshaven firefighter fellow. We talked bikes a bit and then we noticed that they sure didn’t have hardly as much gear as we had. Karen asked them how they could travel around so light? The fellow said that they had a truck!! They would carry everything including the motorcycle around in the truck, then stop places, unload the bike and ride the area on the cycle. He also said his wife couldn’t ride on the bike more than 200 miles a day.

At 1pm as we were pulling through the little Fishing Bridge area, a grey wolf went loping across the roadway like he haughtily owned the place. Lots of folks stopped to stare, of course.

It was an emotional visit to Old Faithful for me. I remember so well my month-long 2,000-mile bicycle ride from Seattle to Denver Over the Rockies trip of ’87 and my glorious times around Old Faithful. (Came in dead tired one very late afternoon and caught the ‘show’ just right, but then after spending the night in the lodge there – which was special because it was at a time when I camped almost every single night. I was up early the next morning and was there for the erupting at around 6:30am – it was almost magical! There was no one else around, the swirling morning mist combined with the spouting and the silence was strong and eerie as the powerful burst surged upward and the scene with the low rising sun was caught perfectly in a series of some of my favorite photographs.)

This day we arrived toward mid-afternoonish. Much of the surrounding area was changed, of course, in the intervening 18 years since I had been there before. New buildings, no evidence of the old lodge where I had stayed, more highways and roadways and parking areas. We tooled into the parking lot and I suggested Karen get off with the video camera in case Old Faithful was to blow soon. As I parked, Karen trudged over the gravel area toward where a big crowd of people was waiting anxiously. And in fact, after I parked and started over, I could see the spouting of the great natural event making it’s way skyward. Karen had stopped just short of the crowd and had begun videoing.

We went to the spacious nearby gift/cafeteria place and being very, very hungry, we got some stuff from the cafeteria. Seems places that attract huge diverse crowds all cater to their differing needs and so it wasn’t tough finding vegetarian fare. We sat for a bit munching and looking out the window at the Old Faithful scene sitting on the comfy cane chairs and enjoying the ambiance. Then, after a sojourn through the gift shop, we made our way out to the forming large group of folks there to watch the next shot. Old Faithful, though not being as faithful as in earlier years, still comes up fairly regularly. The interval is between every 36 and 60 minutes or so. There are two rows of benches arranged in a semi-circle about 50 yards from the geyser, which attract the large crowd of folks. The people are of every age and description, and from all over the world.

As the time elapses, folks get aniticapatory. Someone joked, “I wonder if they turned it off for the day already?” We kept holding our cameras up waiting for the initial spouting to catch the geyser at the beginning of the shoot. There were several false little teasing burblings that got the crowd eager, only to be let down. Finally the stark hot water emitted through the ever-present steam and streaked into the blue of the sky. Over 100 feet into the air it shot and the single simple majesty of the event may have even captured the imagination and awe of some of the jaded kids there who now are accustomed only to pyrotechnics and computer-generated fanfare.

After the show, we made our way back to the parking lot and could see our hopes of reaching Missoula today fading quickly as the hours had elapsed and our time in Yellowstone lengthened. In fact, it was a vast misjudgment to think that we could zip through the natural wonders there with any kind of speed at all. One could visit this area for an hour, a day, a month, or a year, and STILL not have enough time to really get into it.

Gibbons Falls, on our way out of the park, was quite a treat as the Yellowstone River came splashing down several hundreds of feet into the basin and then running off into the long valley below. It was quite dramatic.

A Texan named Cliff came over to us with four cowboy handsome kids – who we guessed were his sons. The fellow rode a Shadow, but a smaller one than mine. They were on a tour from out of south Texas and he said they might head out to the coast. We talked about our rides and his trip with the boys. After a bit, four of them stood bravely down on a rock ledge out from the main viewing area for a picture. I would have been too scared to get down there, but they scrambled down and back like billy goats.

On our ride through the park there was still much evidence of the 1988 fire which burned much of the forest. Various degrees of blackened trees poked skyward like burned matchsticks. Karen noted how some trees had been stripped of their blackened charred coating, presumedly by the weather, and with the branches now only stubs, they gleamed like pewter rods in the sunlight against the blue sky.

During the day we saw a few huge elk in the distance with amazingly big racks. One huge bull elk we saw nibbling on some dinner from the roadside – and then we saw who we thought were our cowboy friends coming up right near the bull elk to get pictures! We also saw a few buffalo today, and man are they huge!

Coming off the mountain into Mammoth Springs! Now that was a descent of 7% for 2 miles or more mostly without guardrails looking down over unbelievable mountain landscaping rolling out to as far as could be seen. We got to the bottom and I said to Karen that I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best! Actually, my eyeballs were steadily riveted on the roadway in a non-blinking gaze – heart pounding, trying to keep my balance around the curving roads, nervous sweat rimming my forehead under the helmet.

One part of the road, around one of the sky-high cliffs, was suspended out from the mountain itself, as it was a huge shelf, and was held up by concrete struts planted into the mountian. I was able to guide the Shadow around and avoid one, but I was a nervous WRECK!

We rolled into Livingston, Montana, well short of projected distance for the day. There were three motels beside each other and after chatting with each, we decided on the one owned by the guy with the best smile – and who also gave us the best pricing. John and Tillie Lamey ran the Livingston Inn Motel and they keep a fine place there. John was especially helpful in getting the internet connection going for me and we had some good banter. (They advertise that “Horses are welcome, stalls available.” And he told me once a guy came and asked for a stall for his wife and a bed for his horse! He also told me how awhile ago, a couple came in on motorcycles and had just been behind an amubulance on a mountainside. Seems the ambulance door popped open, and an an ice chest came flying out. As the folks behind were cleaning it up, they noticed somebody’s thumb in the ice! Ugh!)

We strolled over to the nearby restaurant where we got a meal which Karen enjoyed, but I impatiently nibbled at, hoping to get right back to the room to get working on these notes which I enjoy writing and not wanting to be up too late.

Was able to get on-line but only after a tech guy came to the room to get the internet link working. Learned that we had overshot someone we had wanted to meet back a few days ago in Wyoming. And I was sorry about that. We also have decided to modify our routing to dip south after entering Washington State so we could ride along the Coumbia River Gorge instead of taking the time to go to the most eastern part of the state and go up the Space Needle. (Both of us have been there already anyway.)

It was a double milestone day today as the Shadow passed 7,000 miles and our trip crossed over the 4,000-mile mark, which includes 18 states. Tomorrow we hope to add Idaho and Washington with an almost 500-mile day which would give us 20 states!

Author: Joel Perlish

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